We feel compelled to take some time to thank our Board of Directors during our month of thanks. We owe our gratitude to their guidance and fresh ideas. Each of our board members boasts a stellar repertoire, which you can read more about below. Thank you to our 2013 Board of Directors.
We launched our 30 Days of Thanks with Tom, who has helped enlighten countless dairy farmers and policy makers throughout the country and abroad. Farmers from Canada to Argentina pop into Twelve Aprils Dairy and the Happy Cow Creamery store in Pelzer, South Carolina, to learn from Tom’s operation. In 2002, Tom was named winner of SARE’s Patrick Madden Award for Sustainable Agriculture. He has spoken directly to senators and representatives, helping change farm policy for the better. He served on the USDA Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education (SARE) board, as well as president of the United Farmers Organization. Read more about Tom and watch our interview with him here.
Randi Ilyse Roth
For nearly a quarter-century, Randi has been a practicing lawyer fighting for the rights of the underserved. She worked on the South Side of Chicago with low-income communities for better public benefits and solutions to housing concerns. Her work in agriculture began as a staff attorney and then as Executive Director of Farmers’ Legal Action Group Inc. (FLAG), providing legal services to low-income family farmers across the nation. Her work focused on credit issues and the labor arrangements in contract agriculture.
Most notably, Randi served as the court-appointed monitor in the class-action lawsuit of Pigford vs. Schafer, a 2008 federal court case in which 22,000 African-American farmers sued the U. S. Department of Agriculture for race discrimination. Currently, more than 99% of the claims processing is completed.
Randi is currently the Executive Director of Otto Bremer Foundation, which supports development of healthy communities in regions and areas served by Bremer bank affiliates in Minnesota, North Dakota, and western Wisconsin.
Alton currently serves as the Provost and Vice President of Academic Affairs at Delaware State University in Summerfield, South Carolina. Prior to that position, he was a tenured professor, Dean and Executive Director for Agricultural Programs in the School of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences at North Carolina A&T State University for eight years, later serving as interim Provost and Vice Chancellor for Academic Affairs for two years. His academic specialty is exemplary in that he combines statistics and research to find solutions to problems in rural communities. One of his most notable publications is titled: “Quality of Life among Rural Residents in North Carolina: Community and Life Satisfaction.” His focus on agromedicine, rural poverty and development, labor economics and the structure of agriculture make him a key resource on our board.
Mary currently serves as the Associate Director of the Community Food Systems and Sustainable Agriculture Program at the University of Missouri, as well as an Extension Associate Professor in the university’s Department of Rural Sociology. Her Food Circles Networking Project, in which she is director, pushes forward the research necessary to understand all the changes taking place in global food system to better support farmers and consumers, while making communities more profitable as a result. Mary is also embedded in her own community, helping various agricultural cooperatives, like the Ozark Mountain Pork Cooperative, one of the nation’s premier suppliers of natural pork. Mary was a former Kellogg Foundation fellow, and incorporates her focus on hunger relief and sustainable communities in all the work she does.
Archie has worked for the North Carolina Department of Agriculture since 1992, most recently as the Program Special Assistant to the Commissioner of Agriculture. He has focused on working through a history of discrimination that has shut many minority farmers out of government perks. Archie grew up on a North Carolina farm, and made it his mission to see small and minority-owned farms succeed.
In 2012, the Raleigh News & Observer featured a beautiful story on Archie. In it, the journalist writes:
RAFI board and staff in 2011.
By the time Hart took his state job, in 1992, the number of black farmers in North Carolina had dropped by more than 63 percent since 1978.
Discrimination lawsuits against the USDA had already been bubbling through the courts, and Hart’s position was created as part of an effort to reach out to black farmers. In 1999, a class action suit led by a North Carolina farmer won a $2.3 billion settlement.
Wayne County farmer Larry Martin, 56, says he’s seen access to government programs open up dramatically for minority farmers in North Carolina, particularly since the 1990s, when African Americans such as Hart started filling high-level agriculture positions.
Hart’s job was to make sure the reality on the ground matched the state and federal policies being created to ensure fairness.
“His job was to go around and make sure everyone was actually getting what they needed,” Martin says.
We are so very honored to have Archie serve on our board.
Alex is owner and farmer at Peregrine Farm, one of the premier organic farms in North Carolina. Though, he’ll tell you that he and his wife, Betsy, “grudgingly became certified.” Despite all the red tape, the Hitts have succeeded in a thriving, small-scale sustainable agriculture model. In 2006, Peregine Farm won SARE’s National Sustainable Agriculture Award. Alex currently serves as our Board President. You’ll hear more about Alex (and his turkeys) tomorrow in our Thanksgiving profile!
Lenwood V. Long, Sr.
Lenwood is the President and CEO of The Support Center, a statewide nonprofit and Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) that provides small business loans and financial training to start-ups and existing businesses, as well as lending services to community-based organizations. His vision couples over 25 years of business management experience with community development that helped empower people in the most underserved, rural areas of North Carolina. This keen combination informs his approach to creating thriving economies in the agricultural sector.
Follow along every day at rafiusa.org/30daysofthanks